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The University of Arizona Success Stories
1992-93 Intern Warren Brown, and AZSGC's first student to attend the NASA Academy at Goddard, recently reported: "I'm at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, now a post-doctoral Fellow. I'm working on some spectrographs and observing star streams (...remnants of past galaxy mergers) in the outer parts of the Milky Way. I stayed in Cambridge because of a significant other, who recently became my wife. She is of Greek descent, so it was a Big Fat Greek Wedding! We even went to Greece for the honeymoon."
UA Space Grant Intern Mark Robertson-Tessi, along with mentor Ralph Lorenz, have been exploring Titan, Saturn's largest satellite. Specifically, Mark's internship has involved studying the landscape of Titan, then rendering images of what the landscape may look like. Below are a few of the images, along with detailed descriptions. Click on each image to view the full-size version.
2012 - Back to Titan. An autonomous airship exploits Titan's thick atmosphere and low gravity to explore the near-surface environment. The airship communicates direct-to-Earth with a large electronically-steered phased-array antenna. Here it uses its thruster fans to hold position in the gentle breeze that is whipping up waves in an ethane lake.Having profiled the depth of the lake with a ground-penetrating radar,the airship is acquiring surface material with a tethered sample acquisition device to analyze it for prebiotic compounds.
Alternate Reality. In this rendering, the Huygens probe (shape model derived from various sources) is about to splash down on the Saturn side of Titan, rather than on the antisaturn side we will actually visit. (In fact, Saturn's proximity to the horizon shows we are close to +/-80 degrees longitude : the orientation of the rings as near-vertical shows we are close to the equator. The sun's position relative to Saturn shows we are close to summer solstice, although from this image you can't tell north from south...) Titan's atmosphere really should be this transparent, at least at some wavelengths accessible to cameras, if not to the naked eye.
A scientifically-inspired artistic rendering of Titan's hypothesized landscape. Seen from a viewpoint 50km up,
the planetary curvature of Titan (radius 2575km) is evident. A 60-km impact crater, to left, has an updomed floor and a central pit, as seen in craters of this size on the icy satellite Ganymede : On Titan, however, the crater has partially filled with black hydrocarbon liquids - methane and ethane. A few other craters and tectonic landforms litter the landscape, which is only weakly modified by erosion. Distant clouds hover at around 20km altitude.
The Arizona Space Grant Consortium is working to spearhead a National Space Grant Student Satellite Program. Across America, Space Grant students are learning from the ground up—literally—by designing, building, flying and operating a broad range of spacecraft. Students come to our programs with an interest in Space, but with different levels of skill, knowledge, and experience. Missions of growing complexity provide opportunities to acquire baseline skills and then to build on them. They range from the simple—building soda-can “satellites” or small payloads for launch from small rockets or balloons—to building sophisticated satellites. We call this strategy “crawl”, “walk”, “run” and “fly!” Our goal is to make aerospace history and send the first student-built satellites to Mars. These programs bring together University, Industry, Military and Government Resources to Train America’s Future Scientists and Engineers. Space flight projects are an unsurpassed vehicle to engage students in exciting high-level science, engineering and technical learning. Students attest to the fact that these learning experiences—many on the leading edge of technology—provide opportunities, knowledge and skills they do not receive in the classroom.
In 1998-99, Thomas Stauffer was awarded a UA/NASA Space Grant Science Writing Internship at the Arizona Daily Star--Arizona's second largest newspaper. This experience led to the career of his dreams. Here is Tom's story:
Dante Lauretta was a University of Arizona/NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Intern in 1992. We knew we could expect great things from Dante. In 2000, after completing a Ph.D. from Washington University, and serving as a postdoc at Arizona State University, Dante was hired to the UA Department of Planetary Sciences/the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory--home department for Space Grant in Arizona. Dr. Lauretta's research interests focus on the origin and chemical evolution of the solar system. He studies the chemistry of the solar nebula, the cloud of gas and dust from which our solar system formed, by combining theoretical and experimental modeling of these environments with characterization of primitive meteorites. His main research interest is the formation and alteration of minerals in the solar nebula and on meteorite/parent asteroids. This work is important for identifying pristine solar nebula condensates in primitive meteorites, determining whether chemical reactions had enough time to reach equilibrium in the solar nebula, understanding the origin of complex organic molecules in the early solar system, and constraining the initial chemical inventories of the terrestrial planets. He is also currently working on the application of inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to geologic studies. Currently, he is studying the extent of Hg isotopic fractionation in natural systems. This project represents a potentially new stable isotope system with applications in meteoritics, geology, biogeochemistry, and environmental studies. And to bring Dante's story to full-circle, he serves as a research mentor for our UA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Internship Program!